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Polling is a major area of opportunity for the Columbia Political Union. Currently, there is no organization at Columbia which is committed to polling our student body and/or surrounding communities about important issues, including national politics, campus policy, and other subjects. This information is lacking in our existing publications as well, and we strongly believe that a major part of CPU’s mission to enhance the quality of political dialogue on campus is to understand and measure this dialogue in insightful ways. We are seeking to use polling data to produce compelling and informative insights into what students at Columbia believe, and why they believe it.

Some colleges and universities, such as Quinnipiac, Monmouth, and Siena, have robust professional polling institutes, which are well-resourced and often make national headlines. However, many other institutions have student-led polling institutes which largely focus on the student body, the most prominent example being the Harvard Institute of Politics’ annual Youth Poll, which polls the Harvard student body and students across the country about their political views and policy priorities, often combining these data with demographic information to produce valuable insights.

We seek to create an official polling division of CPU, which releases at least one comprehensive campus-wide poll per semester, and provides compelling insights into our student body’s political beliefs. We intend the survey to be fully representative of Columbia’s population, and the demographics of survey participants would have to match those of the student body, and be of sufficient sample size. 

Responsibilities of the Polling Committee will include planning the contents of the poll(s), planning a process for polling the student body, developing strategies to ensure a statistically representative sample, compiling and visualizing the data, and partnering with other campus organizations, including publications, to publicize our findings. Ambassadors may also have the opportunity to work with Columbia faculty advisors to implement the initiative. Our ultimate objective is to spark a campus-wide conversation about the politics at Columbia, and help our institution become more self-aware.

Future work for the polling group might include developing infrastructure for polling local elections, potentially as soon as the 2022 primary elections. This would require researching polling methodologies, communicating with professional pollsters and Columbia professors with relevant experience, and analyzing poll data once obtained. We view this as a particularly difficult task to achieve, but also a particularly rewarding experience if accomplished.

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